When I spoke to a support group recently about grieving the losses of illness, one part they found really helpful was the idea of grieving on purpose. Grief is one of those things that you need to make a conscious effort to keep in balance. Mostly we want to avoid painful feelings, to push them away and distract ourselves, hoping they will go away on their own. . The trouble is negative feelings don’t go away on
Grief is a painful and necessary part of coming to terms with a serious medical condition for your loved one. It seems everything changes so that it’s difficult to take it in all at once. The medical and health issues are often the first and obvious concerns. People are resilient – most are pretty good at pulling resources together to deal with an immediate crisis. However, when the first firefighting efforts have passed, this is usually when you survey the damage and realize things are never going to be the same again.
When our loved one is diagnosed with a challenging health condition, it’s easy to get caught up in all the things that need to be done. There seem to be endless to-do lists for medical needs, personal care needs, nutritional needs, etc. Just getting them bathed, dressed, and fed often becomes a full time job. I remember with John the shower became a challenge because the water in his face seemed to be too
You know the story that I’m talking about. It usually starts with “he always” or “she never.” Our brains are wired to notice the negative it seems. And we usually practice telling this negative story over and over. Then we build stories around the negative events and look for more evidence to prove what we believe. Yuck!
The good news is that we have smart thinking brains. Ah haaaa. When we want to, we can make a conscious effort to change or re-write our stories. During the time of grieving is a great
Mindfulness is so simple to know how to do it and so difficult to remember to practice it. My favorite way to practice it is to notice everything in the present moment that I can take in with my five senses: touch, vision, hearing, taste, and smell.
The first thing is to breathe. The best way to take a deep breath is by first breathing OUT
You feel exhausted by taking care of someone, pushed to the breaking point, completely used up. You have an intense need for rest and feel like the solution is to have some time away for yourself. You believe if you could only get ahead of the to-do list or find someone really responsible to take over some of your chores, you could get the rest you need.
But it's the paradox.
I had a life coach who once told me that I was not my feelings. I was not my sadness, anger, or elation. I understood what she was saying intellectually but found it difficult to stop reacting as if my world revolved around my feelings and emotional reactions. If I had negative feelings, it seemed as if they would never end, and I did many things to distract myself from feeling such as reading, working, watching movies or television, trying to “fix” other people, and so on.
When I was grieving my late husband John, the pain of the loss was so intense that I couldn’t
Before being my husband’s primary caregiver, I had considerable experience with burnout. I experienced compassion fatigue as a psychologist and observed it in many health care professionals in hospitals and clinics. We were often trying to achieve standards of success, responsibility, work-ethic, etc. I was pre-occupied with trying to be "responsible" (just thinking the word would make me want to run for chocolate). And I was exhausted. Exhaustion and overwhelm make it nearly impossible to true care for others in our lives, especially caregiving for someone with a serious illness.
Since I was a teenager or maybe before, I had an interest in understanding relationships and what made healthy relationships. This interest is still what drives me today -- truly meaningful relationships that support, encourage, and challenge us to reach our full potential.
When I began studying to become a psychologist, I had high expectations that people only needed to learn certain skills like conflict resolution and relaxation breathing exercises to live highly satisfied and productive lives. When the reality hit me that it wasn’t quite that simple, I was disappointed.
Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t book knowledge that mattered, it was wisdom. Wisdom isn’t about just having the right answer, it’s about applying what you know in your life. Even people
I am a health and happiness psychologist. I had an amazing opportunity to care for my late husband with dementia that brought everything into focus: love, purpose, healing, self-care, and living without regrets. You can read more of my story here.
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